Doc Rivers: Stop rewarding division winners so much in playoff seeding

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The Clippers (56-26) have clinched at least the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, but they’d probably have an easier first-round matchup if they fell to the No. 5 seed.

That’s because the Trail Blazers (51-30) are guaranteed a top-four seed for winning the Northwest Division. So, the Spurs (55-26), Rockets (55-26) or Grizzlies (54-27) will fall to the No. 6 seed and face the No. 3 seed. The fifth seed gets to play Portland.

Moreover, if the Southwest Division winner wins tonight – whether it’s the Spurs or Rockets – that team would hold tiebreaker over the Clippers. It doesn’t matter that the Clippers split the season series with both San Antonio and Houston. The first tiebreaker favors the division winner, and the Clippers finished behind the Warriors in the Pacific Division.

Rivers, via Arash Markazi of ESPN:

“That’s a flaw,” Rivers said. “I think the divisions are important. They’re nice to have. They’re nice to be celebrated, for some and some not, but I don’t know if they should be celebrated as far as in the standings. I think it’s something that the league will absolutely look at and try to fix. You shouldn’t be rewarded if your record [isn’t as good as others].”

“I just think if you tie with us, let’s say if we had gone undefeated against a team but our records are tied and they would get home court, that to me is insane,” Rivers said. “That’s worse in some ways to me, because head-to-head should always go first. But there’s flaws and you fix them, and I think the league will look at that.”

I agree with Rivers, and although Adam Silver says there are no quick fixes, I see an easy solution here:

Stop rewarding division winners when determining playoff seeds.

Stop guaranteeing them a top-four seed. Stop giving them a tiebreaking advantage.

Do division championships really mean anything now? Are teams successfully marketing them? Would they mean less if they weren’t tied to playoff seeding?

Unlike the more-complex debate about allowing in the top 16 teams regardless of conference, this wouldn’t require any schedule changes. Teams play intra-divisional opponents four times, the same number of times they play most intra-conference/non-divisional opponents. They play the other intra-conference/non-divisional opponents three times.

There’d be nothing wrong with tweaking the schedule, even eliminating divisions, but the schedule change would practically be microscopic.

The NBA could dial back my reform proposals a notch* – maybe guaranteeing a division winner a playoff berth instead of a top-four seed, keeping it as a tiebreaker but further down the list. That would still match the symbolic value of a division titles with at least some practical value – but not too much. It would make division titles practically irrelevant most, if not all, years.

As it stands, the system is convoluted just so a few teams can brag about division titles. I don’t think that’s worth the tradeoff.

*I’d really like to see the top three seeds choose their opponents among the bottom four seeds, but I’m trying not to get too radical here.

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Vince Carter’s 22-year NBA career ended amid the chaos of coronavirus, preventing him from getting the deserved fanfare.

But fellow players will send Carter into retirement with the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

NBA release:

NBA players have selected Vince Carter as the recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the NBA announced today.

Carter, who spent the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks, announced his retirement from the NBA in June after playing a league-record 22 seasons.  He receives the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Dumars, a two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.  From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions.  Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with more than 250 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

Full voting (with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and voting points):

1. Vince Carter (Hawks): 143-70-34-13-4-2-2,520

2. Garrett Temple (Nets): 22-78-63-52-25-26-1,746

3. Steven Adams (Thunder): 34-57-41-52-58-24-1,632

4. Harrison Barnes (Kings): 24-25-75-48-35-59-1,418

5. Langston Galloway (Pistons): 23-22-29-60-79-53-1,244

7. Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): 20-14-24-41-65-102-1,016

What a nice honor for Carter, who gracefully aged from high-profile star to veteran mentor.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.